by Woody Allen
, released 2001
This is yet another attempt by Woody Allen to take us back to the now so
romanticized criminal world of New York in the 1940s. To categorize it among
Allen's films, it's right there together with Shadows and Fog, Manhattan Murder Mystery
and even Bullets Over Broadway maybe. It's purely for fun, and doesn't carry a deeper meaning and
the characters are mostly caricatures.
The plot is rather something you'd expect from a on-stage comedy or the Marx brothers; a
mix-up comedy à la Arsenic and Old Lace where the audience has all the
information and the characters do not. In the film Allen plays C.W. Briggs, an
insurance investigator who is famous for his ability to crack even the hardest cases.
Into this all-male environment steps efficiency expert Betty Ann Fitzgerald - played by Helen Hunt -
and starts to turn things upside down for Briggs. Briggs and Fitzgerald despise each other,
but are involuntarily drawn into a case of a series of jewel heists where they have to work together.
I won't reveal more of the plot, because even though it's fairly straightforward and frankly a bit thin,
it is nicely put together and should therefore be experienced at your multiplex of choice.
What is good with The Curse of the Jade Scorpion is the dialogue. As always in his films, it's flows smoothly and
Allen himself is, well, his usual self; blabbering wise-crack with sentences stacked over each other.
He is actually a bit more funny than usual, because he allows himself to portray a somewhat more
blunt and less pc than sometimes. Even more fun, although while seeing the film most people really didn't
know whether to laugh or not, is that he isn't afraid of making fun of himself as a dirty, old, womanizing man.
The Briggs character is always trying to lay his hands on the secretaries, and even cracks jokes about
young girls and older men, pedophilia and other things that has been in the papers regarding Allen's own
life the last few years. Well, not pedophilia, but you know what I mean. He is quite funny.
You’ve got a cold? Someone’s gotta rub your chest down with Vicks.
Anyhow, the rest of the cast is also pretty good, although not as magnificent as you're used to. Dan Aykroyd makes a quite
boring performance, seeming more than a little rusty and the other supporting cast is, well, flat, albeit effective. Some are even more than flat;
at least a few of the secretaries in the film really would need acting classes or at least some directions. Their lines come as natural as
any speech by Dubuya... The only one that does anything above average is Helen Hunt.
Now, I've seen quite a few of her films, and I still think she's best on TV. Somehow, she's not able to
reach out beyond the screen and talk to you. This is probably the best I've seen her - I think she was fairly one dimensional in As good as it gets -
but unfortunately she's not very funny. She's in funny situations, and her body language manages to be funny, but very little of what she says is funny.
This is not entirely her fault, so I must say she came out ok.
All in all, this is a good night's fun, nothing more. There are a bunch of good laughs, but it's not like you're falling out of your seat.
The dialogue is close to slap stick sometimes, which can seem more or less natural. Even though Allen is his usual self, the whole film is more low key,
slower and smaller. Major problem is that Allen is too old to play an aspiring Casanova even though he jokes about it. It was the case in Mighty Aphrodite and it is the case now, sorry.
It is not believable at all. His character is still chasing skirts like he's in his 30s, but Allen is almost 70!
In other cast we see David Ogden Stiers who has been in more Allen movies than I can remember. Also, Elizabeth Berkley and Charlize Theron are
in the film with the purpose of being beautiful. Neither I have seen before I think and neither could act, I'm afraid.
Bottom line, it's not up to par with what you expect from Allen, but it's good for a fun night for Allen-lovers and others. It feels like he's
in cruise control, but even then he's a top-notch film maker. The music is, as always, outstanding.